What to Look for When Choosing a High-Quality Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate MedallionsThis is a guest article from the chocolatiers of Santa Barbara Chocolate. Santa Barbara Chocolate is the supplier of my favorite chocolate, and they’ve been a more than welcome sponsor of PrimalCon since the very beginning, donating boxes of dark chocolate coins for guests to enjoy. PrimalCon attendees can attest, their chocolate is top notch.

As a big fan of really dark chocolate myself – as I know many of you are – I’ve reported on the health benefits of dark chocolate, and explored whether all chocolate is created equal. Still, with all the various labels and terms thrown about these days, choosing a high-quality dark chocolate can be a little confusing. What separates bad from good from best? So I decided to go straight to the source and get expert advice from professional chocolatiers…

Strike the Right Balance

With recent developments and knowledge about the world of chocolate, more and more people are turning to the idea of eating pure chocolate sourced from healthy trees, grown under the care of happy farmers, and produced with quality ingredients. Yet how do you go about finding the excellent dark chocolate with these qualities? There are many components that affect the quality of chocolate and consumers should aim to strike the right balance between harvesting practices, manufacturing processes, quality ingredients and of course, for those conscious consumers, ethically grown and traded. The flavor and texture of any chocolate will naturally reflect these qualities when selecting and tasting chocolate based on the above factors. When you find that chocolate that meets these standards it will delight and inspire your taste buds.

Shade Grown with Love

A chocolate company that starts their journey on the right foot will have an ethical interest in the environment and the farmers. First, look for chocolate that is shade grown in the depths of the green rainforest. There is a huge difference when it comes to shade grown chocolate and sun bleached chocolate. Rather than growing cacao beans on a farm where the plot of land and the branches are exposed to the harsh sunlight, ethical companies use a natural organic approach known as shade grown. This means the cacao plants are planted in the rainforest and given the chance to do what they do best, to stretch for the sun when they need it and to shrink back into the shade when they want to stay cool. The plant works in harmony with nature and can develop the natural and organic way. Mother earth is in the flavor, and with shade grown chocolate you can enjoy the benefits of the sweet damp soil and the earthly nutrients that add to the flavor.

Cacao Tree Forest

How can you tell if a chocolate is shade grown?

Chocolatier’s recommendation: The flavor of the chocolate is the best test. Shade grown chocolate won’t exhibit strong astringency or overly acidic flavors. Rainforest Certified Cacao is another measurement.

Ripened to Perfection

Second, look for chocolate that is sustainably grown and ripened to perfection. The old joke that chocolate is actually a fruit isn’t too far from the truth. Chocolate comes from the fruit known as the theobroma cacao. Just like any fruit, if you want to produce the best taste, you pick it when it is ripe. Unfortunately in our modern world of hustle and bustle and to meet high demands, many companies will rush to harvest the fruit and use pesticides to increase yield. For instance, some companies add artificial enzymes such as acetone or enzymatic polypeptides to their cacao to produce a chocolate flavor and thereby eliminate the traditional and difficult step of cacao fermentation. The traditional process of fermentation is one of the most important steps in making great chocolate flavor. The golden rule to remember when it comes to anything good in life is that it is quality and not quantity. Companies snatching the fruit before it is ripe produce chocolate that is acidic in taste or sometimes green potato like in flavor as the fruit is only partially ripe or not ripened at all. True manufacturers of first class chocolate will not cheat the growing or fermentation process. They encourage sustainable growing practices to reduce pesticide use and only pluck the fruit from the trees when the time is just right.

UTZ Certified

How can you tell if a chocolate is sustainable grown and fermented correctly?

Chocolatier’s recommendation: You’ll notice right away in the flavor. Properly fermented pure chocolate will have the characteristic cocoa flavor without too many other flavors competing. Look for chocolates sourced from cocoa beans that are UTZ Certified as an additional measure.

The Natural Way

The next step in finding premium dark chocolate is to consider the manufacturing process. You are not going to get the definitive taste of chocolate from a company that does a slap dash job when it comes to turning the bean into a bar of luscious and rich dark chocolate. The production process has so much to do with final taste and texture – this is where you can spot the good and the bad from the downright ugly.

Look for chocolate connoisseur companies that have strict manufacturing and quality control practices over the entire production process. These companies handle their production of the cacao bean with care and precision to bring out that true velvety chocolate taste with a supple bitter note that lingers on the tongue. The fruit is not only sustainably grown and fermented properly, but also the beans are roasted and blended with true care to ensure quality. For example, two important phases of chocolate manufacturing that have a significant impact on the final product are the roasting of the cocoa bean and the conching of the chocolate. To reduce cost, companies will over-roast the beans to hide the imperfections of cheap cocoa beans and will under conche the chocolate to save time in production. Companies that care about quality and the essence of taste do not cut corners like these. They roast and conche their beans to perfection and have their manufacturing and quality control processes audited.

Cacao Bean Roasting

How can you tell if a chocolate company has strict manufacturing and quality control practices over the entire production process?

Chocolatier’s recommendation: Look for companies that have ISO and or HACCP Certifications for their manufacturing processes. Does the company exhibit good intentions and care? What does your intuition say?

How can you tell if the cacao has been over-roasted or under conched? 

Chocolatier’s recommendation: Taste the chocolate and see if it is smooth and the sugar doesn’t seem separate. Average chocolate when it melts seems to be in parts (sugar separate from the cocoa butter separate from the cocoa fiber). Premium chocolate will be smooth with a solid marriage of cocoa butter, sugar and cocoa fiber which produces a velvety smooth texture. Over roasted cacao that has shell in it will often have a burnt rubber taste.

Quality Ingredients vs Cheaper Alternatives

The FDA regulates which ingredients can and cannot be used in chocolate, and thus, have issued standard definitions for chocolate. In sum, a quality dark chocolate typically only has three to four ingredients. The main ingredients are cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. However, during the manufacturing process, it is easy for companies to slip in cheaper ingredients to supplement the more expensive quality ingredients. For example, some companies will use low cost artificial sweeteners in their chocolate production rather than real sugar. Also, common practice of some chocolate companies is using cheaper “cocoa butter equivalents” (CBE) such as vegetable or hydrogenated oils rather than the pure cocoa butter. For those true chocolate lovers, watch out for these substitutes in the ingredients. In Europe, manufacturers can add the CBE known as PGPR and not even list it on the ingredients.

Raw Cacao Seeds

Nothing compares to the deep and luxurious taste of the finest, high quality dark chocolate, and nothing else should be used to make it.

How can you tell if a chocolate is using cheaper alternatives in their ingredients?

Chocolatier’s recommendation: Always opt for quality ingredients. Make sure to look at the ingredients label. Make sure the ingredients include cocoa mass (or cocoa liquor), cocoa butter and sugar. Watch out for CBE (cocoa butter equivalents) ingredients such as vegetable or hydrogenated oils. Also, ask if the chocolate is made from Grade AA Cocoa Butter and GMO free cane sugar. Using Grade AA cocoa butter creates that wonderful melting sensation in your mouth that CBE cannot even come close to creating. Cane sugar, when added sparingly, perfectly complements the taste of the cacao bean and produces a finished result that is the very best it can be. Natural vanilla, as long as it isn’t too much, can help accent the chocolate’s nuances too.

Strong Ethics Equals an Honest Taste

Finally, the most important factor worth investigating when seeking high-quality chocolate are the ethics behind the business. You may think this does not have much to do with the taste of the final product but in reality it plays a major role. A standard, run of the mill chocolate company who believes only in profit, will pump out chocolate designed and produced with many cut corners. The result will be a product designed without care for our world. As we say at Santa Barbara Chocolate “save the Earth – it’s the only planet with chocolate.” Choose your chocolate company carefully and look for those who believe in strong ethics and hold integrity close to their heart. A company that is selective over how they produce chocolate from the bud to the bean to the bar is going to put a lot more effort into creating something worthwhile.

Our natural organic approach is an important step in achieving harmony when it comes to chocolate production. The same can be said when it comes to ethically produced chocolate. The sad reality behind the situation is that cheap chocolate and mass produced chocolate can be procured at the disadvantage of the local people. In a world where we are becoming more aware of the hardship faced by others it’s important to take an approach of integrity and be conscious consumers. This means selecting chocolate companies that deal exclusively in ethical trade from the farmers to the family who tirelessly work to bring extraordinary chocolate to our shelves. Making the world a better place for all is certainly worth the small amount of extra expense. That is why our motto at Santa Barbara Chocolate is “Healthy Trees, Happy Farmers, Great Chocolate.”

Healthy Trees, Happy Farmers, Great Chocolate

The Truth Is in the Taste

Once you have discovered a company that is integral to quality ingredients and ethical in their farming, harvesting, and manufacturing practices, then you are well on your way to finding the best high-quality chocolate on the shelves. The final truth will be in the taste. Many dark chocolate connoisseurs enjoy a high percentage of cocoa and only a hint of sweetness. With dark chocolate that is over 75% cocoa you can taste the exotic long notes of flavor that resounds on the tongue and deepens with every bite. Dark chocolate should be smooth, rich and complex regardless of cocoa content. Many chocolatiers think that dark chocolate holds more flavor and depth than red wine and it will ignite all the senses.

When sampling solid dark chocolate, notice the aroma and how it prepares the palate for something magical. As you slip the chocolate onto your tongue a quality dark chocolate will be pleasing in texture and the taste will linger and grow. Dark chocolate is an experience for the senses, and if chosen right can be pure bliss, and a healthy, sweet indulgence.

Support a Company That Does It Right and Get Your Dark Chocolate from Santa Barbara Chocolate

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115 thoughts on “What to Look for When Choosing a High-Quality Dark Chocolate”

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  1. We make our own cocoa “puddings”-Cocoa powder, some kind of sweet (sometimes honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar…), and some kind of fat (coconut oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, coconut cream…). It’s super dark, but intensely delicious 🙂

    1. did you try to add gelatin into the pudding as 4th ingredient? that’s how I make it. then put in the fridge to cool down and solidify and there you go. better than chocolate ice cream. guaranteed.

      1. could you give me the amounts that you use, I’ve tried a couple of times but they’ve come out rubbery. thanks jack

        1. if they come out rubbery, simply reduce the amount of gelatin untill the consistency of the pudding suits your taste. I use 5 “mountain” spoons of cocoa powder, 2 or 3 flat spoons of sugar and 4 flat spoons of coconut oil for the base mix. I put about 50ml Carte D’Or gelatin powder into a 200 ml cup and pour hot water (abt.90 deg. celsius) on top of it till the cup is half full. then i mix it and wait 10 minutes. after 10 minutes i pour the gelatinous hot liquid into the base and mix till smooth. wait a bit to cool down and put in the fridge. needless to say it can be improved with nuts, dried fruit etc. to taste. very tasty 🙂

        2. Oops, forgot the most important thing of the base mix – coconut milk. Use enough milk for the base mix to be mixable but not too easily. Just enough to make the whole thing wet and no cocoa left dry.

  2. There’s a great company I always order my dark chocolate from called Stirs the Soul. Their chocolate is organic, fair trade and manufactured in a facility that is nut, tree-nut, soy, gluten, egg and dairy free. It’s some of the best chocolate I’ve ever had!

  3. I’m trying to switch to a higher percentage dark chocolate. Right now I’m at 75% but for health reasons (less sugar) would like to increase somewhere into the 80/90 percentile but don’t find it sweet enough. Any suggestions?

    1. I found endangered species 88% cocoa at Kroegers. Has most of what we are looking for I think. Rain Alliance certified, NonGMO, but is produced on equipment having nuts, etc. Very smooth and good tasting though. Was eating Lindt, but this is much better, and is about the same price.

      1. This is exactly what I was going to post. I really enjoy the 88% over others I’ve tried.

        1. My favorite, as well. I’ve been eating the “Black Panther” 88% for years. It does have soy lecithin, but to me it tastes so much better than most dark chocolates — which, to me, have a peculiar aftertaste that this one does not.

    2. Smaller bites will help. You will “need” less as well so it’ll last longer in your “for medicinal purposes” drawer, unless you let a select few know about it and then well, just stash one somewhere else for emergencies of course.

    3. I put 90 percent Lindt in the freezer and it seems a bit sweeter that way for some reason. No idea why and maybe I’m just fooling myself.

    4. Take it slowly.

      I’m now exclusively at 100% because anything lower tastes way too sweet for me. This was not originally the case.

      If you’ve been following PB for a while now, you’ll probably notice that your taste buds have changed and that you now recognize more subtleties in the taste of your food.

      When I first tried incorporating dark chocolate, I could barely get myself to choke down the 75% stuff (I was a milk chocolate kind of child). Over the course of a few weeks with one square each night after dinner, the taste began appealing to me more and more. I then increased to 85% and repeated the process.

      I spent about two months alternating between 85% and 90% each night. Eventually, the two began tasting drastically different to me. I then switched to 90% and 100%, again alternating nightly and kept this up for about 2-3 months as well. Once the 90% started tasting too sweet, I went exclusively to 100% and haven’t looked back.

      Definitely take your time with the transitions, stick to one square of the darker stuff when you’re trying it, and make yourself very conscious of the differences in taste between the lighter and darker.

    5. My favorite is Chocolove XOXOX Extra Strong Dark – 77% Cacao. Second is: Green and Black’s Dark – 85% Cacao.

    6. I am diabetic, but rather than use artificial sweeteners I try to just avoid “sweet.” It took a while, but now I really love totally unsweetened baking chocolate. Scharffenberger’s is good. When your chocolate isn’t hiding behind sugar, you know for sure it’s the chocolate you crave. A small square with a cup of coffee is divine and totally satisfying. If I get even an 88% cacao bar, I won’t stop at one square, I’ll eat the whole thing. Unsweetened baking chocolate is kind to my blood sugar, does not raise it a bit. It’s an acquired taste, like red wine.

    7. Taza Stone Ground bar 87% cacao. Never had anything else like it.

    8. Try Francois Pralus “Le 100%” – it is incredible, not for baking, just delicious. Lasts forever b/c you don’t need to eat much to enjoy and savor and no sugar means it’s not making you eat more…

    9. Lindt Excellence. I’m at 99%, but take your time through the lower percentages. And yes, keep it in the freezer. As a good apple — are we still apples, or was that the temporary affectation of a worker bee? Are there still worker bees? — I’ll look into Barbara’s, but Lindt Excellence has been keeping me in chocolate for years note

    10. I agree that Endangered Species 88% tastes better than Lindt 90%, but for me it tastes *too* good to regulate, which I have to do. I’ve seen it at WalMart, but my health food store doesn’t carry it, which makes me a little suspicious. Maybe that’s not a good reason?

      1. Mea culpa. My health food store sells all the Endangered Species varieties. I’m going to try to hold it down to a serving of three squares.

    11. Green and Blacks makes a really great 85%. It’s what I always start people on because it’s still sweet enough, and very creamy and smooth. It does have some milk protein in it though, just a warning if you’re sensitive to that.

  4. How come there is no mention of soy lecithin? This is the deal breaker for me and it is hard to find chocolate without it.

    1. Ann, look into stirs the soul, they manufacture their chocolate in a facility that is free from soy, gluten, dairy eggs and nuts

      1. Don’t forget Theo Chocolate, it doesn’t have any soy lecithin.

        1. + 1 for Theo! The sea salt and almond flavor is the best thing I’ve ever had. They carry it at Wegman’s.

    2. Check out Chris Kresser’s article about soy lecithin. Turns out it’s not such a deal breaker to many people…

    3. Some of the Trader Joe’s chocolate (Belgian chocolate I think, not Swiss) has no soy. Theo’s and one more (I can’t think of it, but the wrapper is a brown background with a colorful vine design) that I can think of offhand that are soy-free for those who can’t have it.

  5. Love quality dark chocolate but I got tired of the constant intrusion of political correctness. When the left-wing BS tank got full I stopped reading. Write about chocolate not politics.

    1. well, you need to justify the higher price, no? and how do you quantify political correctness? that blanket covers a lot.

    2. Yes, those crazy left-wingers and their caring about the rainforest and forcing companies to tell us what’s in their chocolate — just disgusting!

    3. Where to you see anything about being politically correct in the post. Where do you see the author criticizing you for buying conventional chocolate. The post is about love – love for chocolate AND love for the rain forest. The message is that chocolate made with love is better tasting than chocolate made with corporate greed. Do you know anything about love? Just asking.

      I don’t always buy the most “politically correct” products. I try, not to be correct but because it is the right thing to do. If someone is on a very tight budget and getting to eat a little dark chocolate is part of helps them stay primal, I say go ahead, buy whatever you can, and enjoy.

    4. I agree, I am all for ethically grown products without exploiting labor, but this post made it sound liek a full time job tasting a multitude of chocolate bars. (not that would be such a bad job if you could get it!) SO i have to buy multiple bars and do taste tastings? What if my palate is not sophisicated enough to sort thru all those flavors (or lack thereof). just tell me some good brands to buy and the ones to avoid.

    5. Which part of the article discusses politics? From what I read, it only discusses how chocolate is grown and produced and how the best quality can be achieved. Is it the part about treating workers with respect and dignity (my paraphrase) that bothers you, or the part about growing the plants in a way that doesn’t destroy the environment where they grow? I can see how buying chocolate from exploitative companies would be desirable, because you’ll save a lot of money. But if you care about how businesses are run and how they treat the employees downstream, its nice to know what the options are. That’s not politics; it’s actually a natural expression of the free market at work. The things you care or don’t care about in a business or product are transparent to the consumer so that the consumer can decide what’s important when spending money.

  6. I’ve just looked at the 85% Moser Roth chocolate bar I have and the ingredients are: Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, fat reduced cocoa powder, Emulsifier: Soya Lecitihin; Vanilla Extract.

    Now, I’m thinking Soya lecitihin is a common additive that I ideally don’t want to be eating, would we class this a cheap low grade ingredient?

    I’m thinking I should look elsewhere for my 85% cocoa hit? Does anyone UK-based have any recommendations?

    1. Try Green and Blacks Organic 85% – Organic Chocolate; Organic Cocoa Butter; Organic Cocoa; Organic Raw Cane Sugar; Organic Vanilla extract. High cocoa content, no soy lecithin, very smooth flavor.

      1. Oooh Green and Blacks 85% is definitely the best grocery store chocolate I’ve found. Always snatch it up when its on sale.

        1. Chocolate Trading Co. (online) has everything you could possibly want in the way of dark chocolate – and if you go through Quidco there’s often a healthy discount / cashback as well…

    2. Mark has written about soy lecithin. He used to say it was no big deal. More recently he has encouraged avoiding. (Sorry, I don’t have the links.) Personally, since I try to stick to one or two little squares per day, I don’t worry about it.

  7. Great post! I’m a coffee guy & the parallels between the two are substantial from growing to fermentation to roasting. I’d love to see a post like this on coffee too! Keep up with great work!

  8. Try Green and Blacks Organic 85% – Organic Chocolate; Organic Cocoa Butter; Organic Cocoa; Organic Raw Cane Sugar; Organic Vanilla extract. High cocoa content, no soy lecithin, very smooth flavor.

  9. This might not be very paleo, but if you like dark chocolate, try it with a few drops of whisky. It will incredibly intensify the flavour. The lindt 99% tastes fantastic with that.

    1. Shay, thash a very (hic up) good idea……. Well, maybe not here at work? I don’t keep whiskey in my drawer but there is a chocolate bar of 85% in there, fur medisssinal purposes of corsh….

  10. There is a boatload of high quality chocolate out there today, almost impossible to miss it in any decent store.

  11. What about mold and the resulting mycotoxins? Dave Asprey at Bulletproof Executive seems to think that mold contamination is an issue with many sources of chocolate. No mention here.

    1. I am very allergic to mold and get itchy if I eat chocolate. I have not come across any “mold-free” chocolate. Too bad because I love it!

  12. Okay the post is interesting but really, there were so many specifics and taste references that it’s hard to even figure out. It would have been great if there was a short list of products that meet the criteria so average Joes could compare..

    1. Note that this was a guest post from a chocolate company. All the recommendations are based on their own practices, so they’re basically saying “buy ours if you want to be sure you get all of the above in one bar of chocolate.” It’s not likely that they would recommend competitors. Maybe Mark can chime in with some of his other favorites. Other commenters are also throwing out some pretty good options.

  13. I’ve been buying bars of baking chocolate. 100% cocoa, and delicious! It’s also not expensive, like a lot of the fancy “eating” chocolates can be.

  14. This article is lovely and all, but it didn’t mention two important things:

    1. the coming chocolate shortage

    2. the coming water shortage in CA

    If these things begin affecting our chocolate availability and manufacture, what are our alternatives…and more importantly, where’s the article section on THAT?

  15. I’ll second (or third) the green and blacks organic 85% recommendation. Excellent flavour.

  16. I’ve long been a lover of dark chocolate and a sufferer from migraines. Went on a chocolate fast three weeks ago and have not had a significant headache in that period.

    I don’t like what that is telling me, but I will be conducting judicious experiments with some of the higher quality brands. One thing, tho… Even if I can establish a tolerance level, how much attention do I pay to the idea that the headaches may be telling me about sub-clinical effects at lower dosage rates?


    1. Peter, I’m one of those rare birds who doesn’t care all that much for chocolate. I rarely eat cocoa or chocolate of any kind and I never get headaches, much less migraines. I don’t know if there’s a connection of some sort, but it sounds to me like your body is trying to tell you something.

    2. I found that once I totally cleaned up my diet, migraines went away, and I can still enjoy chocolate. For me, clean means no grains, no cheese, nothing processed (e.g. bacon with MSG), and no alcohol (other than occasional tequila). Look at what else you may have done differently during your “chocolate fast” just in case chocolate is not the cause (or at least not the only trigger).

  17. I live in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara Chocolate’s website has no address. 🙁

  18. Seeing this post put a huge smile on my face! Now for all the ensuing taste-testing…

    I’ve always wondered if I was getting quality chocolate, even when buying 85% and checking ingredient labels. Thank you for the tips!

  19. This was well written and I realize what I’m asking may not be the point, but really all I want is a list of dark chocolate that’s primal approved I can get at the store.

    1. I think the main tip from the article that should help you out is: look for a very short ingredient list made up of those ingredients mentioned. For primal purposes, the higher the cocoa percentage, the better. I think other articles mention that you should look for at least 77%. More cocoa means less sugar.

  20. I live in Australia, and have just read a gorgeous article in SBS Feast magazine about an artisanal chocolate maker at Margaret River, who use only TWO ingredients in their organic chocolate. They use only antique equipment for processing. I am looking forward to treating myself with this chocolate soon! Here’s a link:


  21. My friend fell upon hard times so in a donated gift of food there was an 85% chocolate bar, she took a bite while I was there and I saw when it hit her, it was nice to see it give her the feeling of WONDERFUL. It was medicine for her soul.
    Now I’m going to try the baker’s chocolate eventually.

    1. Most chocolate labeled “baker’s chocolate” is pretty low grade stuff, even if it has no sugar.

  22. Linda, Shary……

    I didn’t suddenly go Primal. I have been running basically on the 80/20 rule for a while, but with no success In reducing the headaches. I don’t have an obvious reaction to dairy, having eliminated and reintroduced it.

    Identifying the culprit is difficult, as with most migraines. However chocolate is listed as a common trigger, along with red wine and possibly caffeine.

    As I don’t drink, the wine was easy to eliminate. I’ve varied caffeine intake from almost zero (decaf tea only) to multiple strong coffees to get through a night-shift spent firefighting.

    Looks like chocolate is the culprit.

  23. So far this year I have purchased two bars of unsweetened baking chocolate, i.e. 100% dark. One was Baker’s brand, the other Ghirardelli. Their ingredients lists are “Chocolate.” and “Unsweetened chocolate.”, respectively. The article, however, says to look for cocoa mass/liquor and cocoa butter as the ingredients.

    I suppose the translation is ‘look it up if you care’…

  24. Equal Exchange Chocolates “Panama Extra Dark Chocolate” 80% is quickly becoming the only chocolate I will eat (surpassing the Green & Blacks 85% easily). I order in bulk from Tropical Traditions and will need to stock up heartily before the weather turns warm.

    1. Equal Exchange Panama Extra Dark is my absolute favorite… no soy, and ethical. Plus, fabulous taste!

    2. I agree; I love that chocolate. It is my favorite, as well. Thanks for the tip about ordering in bulk! i have been buying it by the case whenever my local food co-op has it on sale.

  25. I eat only organic dark chocolate without the soy lecithen. Standards are Theo, Equal Exchange, and Alter Eco. Absolute favorite though is Dick Taylor. Single origin organic chocolate hand made in Arcata, CA. Ingredients- Cacao and cane sugar.
    Expensive, but worth it.

  26. 100% raw, organic, cacao powder for the win. No soy or other additives at all.

    Add it to smoothies, elixirs, yoghurts, coffee, tea, primal baked goods, or best yet, eat it straight off the spoon!

    So many ways to use it and you can sweeten it to your taste. 😉

  27. Thanks for the interesting article. I really enjoy dark chocolate and now I know a lot more about it. I’m very happy with 100% cacao chocolate but I also like something like 80% or 85% occasionally for something sweet. Most people like sweeter chocolate, but it’s amazing how your tastes can change if you give them time. I also like eating raw cacao beans but almost everyone else can’t stand them.

  28. To those who were asking, Mark did a post a while ago on the best chocolate:


    Not sure if they all have soy lecithin or not, but that would certainly be a good taste-test starting point! I also have to throw in that I love Theo, and I also used to love this stuff called Vivanni (or maybe spelled Vivani), but I only found it in one store when I was living in Texas. It was just three ingredients, no lecithin. Amazing stuff. Hope this helps!

  29. It’s not true that the ingredients of chocolate don’t have to be declared in europe

  30. Without a shadow of a doubt… Willie’s chocolate factory in Devon in the UK is the best in the world in my humble opinion.

    The guy that owns the company, Willie Harcourt-Cooze, grew up in Ireland and owned a cacao plantation in Venezuela for a number of years. He really does know his stuff and his chocolate is outstanding!!!! The Rio Caribe 72% chefs drops are just superb, they’ve got a beautiful berry fruit note to the taste and adding four or five of them to a chilI makes it an entirely different dish.

    I also use the 180gm 100% cacao for cooking it makes the most intense chocolate truffles.

    The cloud forest chocolate cake made with ground almonds… Oh man it’s mmm mmm MMM.

    Think I’ll shut up, you most likely get the picture by now.

  31. So it seems my tactic of choosing organic over 70% or under 14g of sugar/serving means quality chocolate?

  32. I do sometimes wonder about the difference between ‘merely quite good’, and the very best? Repeatedly in the wine world it has been shown that there may be no difference. Possibly some super tasters (Parker) can tell, but most can’t, and that includes regular wine drinkers, sommeliers, wine judges. For an extended discussion see Modernist Cuisine.

    In addition, is it just you and the chocolate – mano-a-mano, or is the companions, the food, the raspberry filling et cetera that goes with it?

  33. For a great chocolate experience, try the chocolate from a new company in Colorado, Nova Monda. They make their chocolate with no soy, no dairy, no GMOs (a problem in soy and many sugars), and no slavery. Only two ingredients, cacao and organic evaporated cane juice. Their bars are 70%, 75% and 80% dark. All the cacao they use is directly sourced from family farms and co-ops in Nicaragua and Ecuador.

  34. Does anyone know anything about Ghiradelli? It’s the only 100% chocolate I’ve been able to find in Boulder. I’m doubting it’s fair trade, “ethical”, organic, shade-grown, or even grown in , but you never know. I’ve bought dark chocolate online before, but the really dark stuff that I like (90%+) is hard to find, and usually comes with shipping costs that make it not worth the price. Which would be fine…but I eat chocolate every day, so it gets expensive.

    I’ve read so many (literally, at least 50) pieces of primary literature about tropical agriculture, and it’s not as simple as it seems to come up with a way to maintain biodiversity–it comes down to the sharing vs. sparing argument, and I lean towards the sparing side, which advocates using more intense agricultural methods with a higher yield, but taking up a smaller area. Of course, the big trick is getting tropical countries to back that up with legislation, which many don’t have the resources or desire to do…it’s a huge mess. But it’s great to learn and think about these things and TRY to be an “ethical” consumer. Shade-grown cacao is not only good for the chocolate, it’s good for the biodiversity of the plantation and nearby forest fragments, too. At some agroforestry plantations in Sulawesi, Indonesia, many farmers let Macaques get away with as much as 75% of the cacao harvest, and don’t bother killing them in retaliation. I would buy chocolate from them. I wonder which companies use cacao from Sulawesi.

    1. Aldi has very inexpensive German chocolate including some 85% cacao. I mostly buy Cost Plus World Market’s store brand of dark chocolate. It’s 99% cacao. The ingredient list is “chocolate liquor, sugar.” It’s $1.99 for 3.5 ounces.

  35. Askinosie.com fair trade is incredible chocolate…also love Taza.

  36. Read labels. Scharffen berger lists non-gmo soy lecithin specifically, and I’m under the impression if it doesn’t say so it’s likely GMO soy. I prefer to make my own chocolate sauce using organic cacao powder, maca powder, lucuma powder, etc. in a saucepan with some water. You can gently mix in cacao butter if you want to make solid chocolate (in a double boiler).

  37. I have never seen such an extensive article on chocolate! This is amazing! I didn’t know so much could go into making quality chocolate. Thank you for this. This is now going to be my guidelines when in search for chocolate.

  38. I like to grab a few dark chocolate covered almonds immediately after a workout. However, I guess I’ve never really checked the ingredients that closely. Very helpful article.

  39. We get the Rausch brand here (they have 5 milk and 5 dark ones, we usually buy the 75% because the 80% is often sold out), it has no soy and it is probably the best we can find here plus very affordable. Vivani also is good, even though they make some with crappy fillings. Their 90% is awesome 🙂

  40. Certifications, the FDA, Fair Trade. None of this has to do with quality (which is subjective). It has to do with Price and getting you to ignore (and potentially outlaw) competitors and innovation. If you like the quality and are willing to pay the price, by all means enjoy. All voluntary trade is ethical. What’s *not* ethical is using the political process to outlaw those who’d compete with you. If you want to know how / why we get the food we do, look for those who talk about process regulation.

  41. You really can taste the difference between a high and a low quality chocolate. I find that high quality dark chocolates have a “berry” flavour I like.

  42. Thanks for this post. I knew most of the info, but did not know the Santa Barbara Chocolate Company! I’m going to head over to their website now and see what kind of chocolate they are producing, as I’m anxious to try it!

  43. not one day passes with indulging in dark chocolate..ive probably bought over 100 diffferent brands! i prefer bars with no vanilla and soy lechtitin..just pure cocoa and can sugar or maple syrup
    my currents favorites are:
    Mast brothers brooklyn bar
    Enjoy life allergy free dark chocolate
    Vivani dark chocolate
    and Taza plain dark cocoa pure

    each one has a distinct taste some more gritty like taza and some more smoky like mast brother
    Dark chocolate over 70 percent does have some benefits as lowering bp, lowering LDL and raising mood..but one important thing to point out is stearic acid, the main saturated fat, in cocoa actually RAISES LP A levels..i know first hand unfortunately as I have high LP A..i refuse to give up my daily dose, but its not helping in bringing the numbers down. I figure my niacin may balance it out?

  44. I just heard on the news this morning that
    chocolate is excellent for cardio and strokes, sounds good to me!1

  45. Excellent piece explaining what to look for in a high quality chocolate. I feel like I want to visit the rainforest now!


  47. I am so in love with eating 85% cocoa dark chocolate. Rich Strong taste, super healthy and low in sugar. Such a great post

  48. For quality chocolate, you mention cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar as main ingredients. How does cocoa powder fit into this discuss of quality chocolate? Is cocoa mass preferred over cocoa powder as quality ingredients are concerned? Are cocoa mass and cocoa powder equivalent in quality as an ingredient in chocolate? Thank you for your response!

  49. Superb site you have here but I was wanting to know
    if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics
    discussed in this article? I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Appreciate